Queensland Law Society

Aussie snag for fairer penal system

Date 25 Jan 2013
Contact Natalie Graeff, Manager Corporate Communication
Phone (07) 3842 5868
Mobile 0488 433 884
Fax 07 3221 9329
Email n.graeff@qls.com.au

Queensland Law Society today gave its strongest condemnation of mandatory sentencing regimes, likening it to transporting convicts 225 years ago.

President Annette Bradfield said that centuries ago petty criminals were automatically meted out harsh penalties – stealing a loaf of bread would see you punished by being sent to a distant country with only a slim chance of seeing home again.

“It’s disappointing that, despite developing an advanced society, the law seems to be regressing,” Ms Bradfield said.

“And, much like the criminal law under which our forebears suffered in the 1700s, mandatory sentencing also seems to target the disadvantaged and less fortunate.

“From other states it’s been widely reported that teenagers have received jail sentences for stealing a bottle of water, or orange juice and lollies.

“One of the saddest cases in recent times was the Indigenous boy who died in custody serving twenty days in prison for stealing less than $100 worth of stationery.

“In another case, an Indigenous man was handed down a 12 month mandatory sentence for stealing $23 worth of food.

“Is this justice? Would our forefathers who worked so hard to lay a foundation of equality and social justice for our nation be proud of this situation? We doubt it.

“Here in Queensland we have mandatory sentencing for various offences, including traffic offences and assault of police officers.

“Unfortunately, mandatory sentencing for traffic offences such as non-payment of fines, can’t take into account circumstances such as an itinerant lifestyle.